My Top “Dinner in a Pinch” Solution

If you have been around here for any length of time, you know that I love to plan out my meals for the week. It helps keep me on track, out of the drive through line and it saves my sanity. I wrote a post all about it here. However, I am a real person and there are times that we get to thinking about dinner and I realize that I need to go to the store, but that is just not happening.  I have a foolproof meal that I gravitate towards in just that situation...fried rice.

I am not known as a chef. I am a mom trying her best to feed her family over here. If I tell you that I have a recipe that I make over and over and I am able to improvise with, you know it is legit. 

I have made this so many times, both planned and on the fly. I love that I can mix it up and use leftover proteins and veggies that I have on hand. I can also go simple with it and use what I’ve got. It works for the meat eaters in my life as well as for my daughter who is vegan. If I’m adding meat, I either toss it with my individual bowl or I pull out her portion first before I mix it all together. I don’t even measure anymore. I just add a little of this and a little of that and taste and adjust as I go. 

How easy is this?

Whenever I decide to make fried rice, I start my rice going in the rice cooker, even if it is hours ahead. I actually prefer to use rice that is cooled off by the time I’m cooking with it. It seems to absorb the flavors better and it doesn’t stick together quite as much. 

When I’m ready to cook, I put about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil into my wok pan and begin heating on medium. If you don’t have a wok pan, just use a larger frying pan. You want room to stir without losing ingredients off the sides. I add about a half of an onion, diced, and saute until it is starting to get translucent. You can adjust the onion amount to suit your family with more or less. There are times, I don’t even use onion. I just sub about a ¼ tsp of onion powder when I add the seasoning later on.

Next, I pour the frozen veggies right in the pan. If you are adding fresh veggies too, add them at this time. Saute those, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through. While they are cooking, measure out about 4 cups of cooked rice. Add your desired protein to the pan so it can be brought up to temperature before adding the rice.

When the veggies and meat is nice and hot, add the rice to your pan. Also pour in your low sodium soy sauce, garlic powder and pepper. Mix completely and let cook together for about 5 minutes. If you are adding a scrambled egg, you can move your mixture to the side before dropping in an egg at the bottom of your wok pan. The heat of the pan should cook it up quickly. When the egg is cooked, mix it throughout your fried rice. (If you are adding the egg separately, cook it up in another pan while the mixture cooks.)

Taste your mixture and add more soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder or pepper as needed to meet the tastes of your family. 

Recipe Notes:

  • My favorite way to make fried rice is to plan it for the night after I will be cooking up some protein. For this week, I have grilled chicken planned one night and the next night, we are doing fried rice. That way, I can make sure we have some extra chicken cooked, and ready to dice into my rice. I’ve done the same with turkey and pork. It’s a fantastic way to use up some leftovers. 

  • I generally use some frozen mixed veggies that are just a staple in our freezer. You pick your favorite and that makes the best fried rice. Even still, I will add in any other fresh veggies we need to use up soon. 

  • When it comes to the soy sauce for this recipe, I will use low sodium or coconut aminos to try and control a bit of the sodium in our diets. I’ve used the real deal when I needed to, but it’s better with less sodium. 

  • Some people like a little scrambled egg in their fried rice. Others, not so much. I love it, but my husband does not. You can choose to leave it out, or make it on the side to mix into your individual portions. 

Fried Rice

  • 4 cups cooked rice

  • 2 tsp sesame oil

  • ½ onion diced

  • 1 package of frozen mixed veggies

  • Additional fresh veggies as desired

  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken/pork/etc. (if desired)

  • ⅓ cup low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ¼ tsp onion powder (if not using diced onion)

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 2 eggs (if desired)

  1. Cook rice and let cool.

  2. Saute diced onion in the sesame oil until beginning to be translucent. 

  3. Add veggies to pan and stir occasionally until heated through.

  4. Add meat if desired and heat through. 

  5. Add the rice to your pan along with the soy sauce and seasonings.

  6. Mix completely and cook for another 5 minutes. 

  7. Scramble egg to add to the mixture if desired. 

  8. Serve up hot!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission from any purchases using the link at NO cost to you. All opinions are always completely my own. 

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Two Funny Traditions That Make My Thanksgiving

As I write this, we are in Thanksgiving week. We celebrate holidays with family traditions. Whether your holiday is celebrated with a big family or within your own household, traditions are important. They connect us to years past and memories of previous holidays. Some of your traditions may be certain recipes that are repeated, movies to be watched together, or even running jokes. 

Candy Corn

In my family, Thanksgiving is not complete without candy corn sprinkled all around the table. I know it sounds strange and I know that not everyone loves candy corn, but this tradition started when I was a kid and it has taken on a life of its own. 

My mom, with her three kids, and my aunt, with her three kids, would always get together for Thanksgiving. After the table in the dining room was set, the candy corn would be spread out on the table like confetti. As dinner was being prepared, we children would manage to make all kinds of excuses to walk through that dining room to snag a handful of candy corn before dinner. We thought we were pretty clever, but I’m sure it was no secret what we were doing. Every year, one of my brothers would stick a piece of candy corn into my mashed potatoes when I wasn’t looking. I actually don’t hate the taste of that combo. 

I’m not sure exactly when the tradition began, but I have taken to getting a bag or two of candy corn half off post Halloween so I can keep it alive. There is something festive about those little candies all over the table. There was even a year that we spent on a cruise ship for Thanksgiving. Yes, I brought a small bag of candy corn to decorate our table in the dining room of the ship. They probably thought we were strange, but it was worth it to keep the tradition alive. 

Orange Sherbert

Another fun tradition in our family is orange sherbert. No, it is not one of the desserts. It was served with our Thanksgiving meal, usually in silver bowls. I think this started as a way of being a “fancy” palette cleanser between courses. Obviously we were fancy with candy corn on the table and orange sherbert too. (LOL) As kids, we loved having dessert at the ready during our meal. There may have been years that my only sustenance was from rolls, orange sherbert and candy corn. Somehow I survived! 

Now, traditions are a funny thing. You want to repeat it every year, but what if you just can’t find that orange sherbert anywhere? Well, this happened one year for my step mom when I was in college. She went to 3 different stores and could not find orange sherbert anywhere. She ended up getting raspberry instead. I didn’t mind, but we were worried that my brother would not be a fan. So, that year, we turned the dimmer down low at the table and all pretended that the ORANGE sherbert was delicious. He thought we were nuts and refused to eat it. Oh well! We tried and we had a good laugh about the whole thing.

Holidays in my house were always filled with things we would never be allowed to do on a normal day. The things mom said yes to on holidays were what made those days so magical. Who doesn't need a little more magic in their lives? 

Now, I know that my family has some strange traditions, but they make us unique. What kinds of traditions do you have in your family? Is there a famous recipe that gets made every year? Is there an uncle who always makes quarters appear from behind your ear? Tell me what traditions you have in the comments. 

If you are looking for a little stress relief after the holiday passes or as it approaches, check out this post I wrote about adding some zen to your bath
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission from any purchases using the link at NO cost to you. All opinions are always completely my own. 

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Why a Sustainable Lifestyle Matters

Why a Sustainable Lifestyle Matters

My family is working towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. We aren’t totally there yet, but we are taking steps in the right direction. I believe that if everyone tried to do some things that are more sustainable, the world would be a better place. 

What is sustainability? According to the United Nations, sustainability means, 

“meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Some examples of a sustainable lifestyle are:

  • Eliminating single use plastics

  • Composting

  • Avoiding paper products

  • Using reusable bags

  • Recycling

  • Upcycling (or reusing) 

  • Energy efficient appliances

  • Reducing electricity use

  • Driving your car less frequently

Why should we live a more sustainable life?

The Earth -  

This is the most important reason! If we continue to live the convenience lifestyle we have been doing, we will continue to grow the landfills and pollute our water sources. According to a University of Utah study, Americans represent only 5% of the Earth’s population, yet we generate 30% of the Earth’s garbage. If we continue on this trajectory, it will lead to an Earth that is not well suited for sustaining our children and grandchildren. If we can make small steps now, we can improve things.

Control of Ingredients - 

One of the benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle is that we can better control what we bring into our home. Sure, those plastic water bottles are convenient and may even encourage us to drink more water, but how good is the water inside those bottles? There have been studies on water bottles that show a wide range of quality in the water. When I use my own water source and a reusable bottle or cup, I know exactly what I’m getting every time. You are much better off with filtered tap water that you trust.

The same is true when I am using dish soap in my glass dispenser. I have carefully researched which dish soap I want to use for my family and I love to refill my dispenser. When I was just buying whatever bottle was on sale that week, I didn’t notice all the harmful ingredients they contained. I don’t want that stuff on the plates my family eats from. 

More Independence - 

This didn’t use to be as important as it is right now. When you are living a more sustainable lifestyle, you are much more independent than your convenience lifestyle friends. What do you do when there are no more packs of bottled water at the store? What do you do when you can’t find any more paper towels? Well, if you are set up to live more sustainably, the answers are easy. You keep doing what you’ve already been doing. Scarcity at the stores will have much less of an impact on people who are willing to invest in practices that sustain them and the environment. You are no longer so dependent on those conveniences. 

Are you ready to live a more sustainable life? 

There are some simple changes you can make today that will create a better world for you and for your children. You can get my FREE guide to living more sustainably called How a Normal Person Can Be Semi-Crunchy. You don’t have to live off-grid in a yurt and produce zero waste to make a difference, but that is totally an option. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission from any purchases using the link at NO cost to you. All opinions are always completely my own. 

Want to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing? Click here and I'll shoot you an email whenever a new blog post lands. 

The Best Mom Advice That I Actually Use

The Best Mom Advice That I Actually Use

Becoming a mom was a lifelong dream for me. Every time I dreamed about my life as an adult, it included children. I totally had no idea what I was in for, but I was excited to be on that journey. When I became a mom, we had dial up internet service, so most of what I needed to know I was finding in books or from trusted women in my life, like my mom. One of the best nuggets of mom wisdom I ever received was

Don’t ask a question if you already know the answer. 

This sounds simple, but it is way harder than you may think. Let me set the stage for you... I walk into the kitchen before dinner to see cookie crumbs all over the counter and a smear of chocolate on my child’s face. Many would ask, “Did you take a cookie without asking?” Sounds reasonable at first glance, but here’s the problem. You already know the answer. By asking the question this way, you are setting up your little darling to lie to you. I am not looking to make my child a liar when they are already a thief. That adds to their list of offenses when they are likely just testing limits. Do I really want to know if they took a cookie? Nope. I am just upset that they did.  

Here’s a better response. “I see someone took a cookie from the cookie jar.” (I could name them but that opens up a defensive stance that doesn’t serve my purpose here.) “Will you help me clean up the counter?” At this point, the child is offered an opportunity to clean up after themselves. They know they were guilty and they will likely offer an apology which I can accept and express my disappointment at their choice. I likely would follow up with dessert for dinner that is the cookies that were already consumed by my little cherub who would then have to go without. I know each child is different, but this worked for me, most of the time. 

Another example is when I hear my daughters arguing and calling each other names. I don’t need to ask what they said. I already know that. I may come in and reflect that they seem frustrated with each other. We may brainstorm other word choices they could use that would be more productive. Getting “in trouble” is not the goal here. The goal is to train them up with positive values that will serve them well in life. 

This was advice I used in the classroom as well. A great example of this is when monitoring the playground, I may see a child throw a rock which is against the safety rules. Inevitably, there would be a scurry of children running my direction to alert me to the situation. Of course, I already saw what happened. 

Many teachers would ask, “did you throw a rock?” even when they clearly saw what happened. I think the intent is to elicit a confession from the offending child. But, I don’t see that as a helpful strategy. The child is more likely to lie to avoid trouble, which just makes things worse.

With my approach, I turn to the offender and state, “I saw you threw a rock. Can you tell me what was happening?” This does a couple of things. First, it allows the offender to be honest about the situation. It also gives them a chance to explain what was going on prior to what I saw. Then I can check to see if they understand the rule against rock throwing and it’s purpose. Again, my goal is not to get children “in trouble,” but rather to help give them tools and strategies to use in the future. 

Sometimes, we ask questions when our children are doing things and we really don't want to hear the answer. This happened more as my children got older. I would ask them all about their days but there were just some things that I would prefer not to know.  I learned very quickly that I am not actually interested in Minecraft and all the details of the world they have built. I stopped asking what they were working on because I really didn't want to know the answer. Instead, I would rephrase things and ask, "did you have fun working on Minecraft today?" This allowed me to show an interest without getting a walk through tour of their new world. Of course, I would still get the unsolicited tours from time to time. 

When dealing with teens, you may not actually want to hear ALL the details of what they talk about or do with their friends. Now, I'm not saying to distance yourself from the teens in your life. Just choose carefully what questions you are prepared to hear the answers for. This is different for everyone. Parenting teens is a whole blog post or series in and of itself.

Before asking a question, ask yourself, "do I really want an answer to that question?"

By changing your approach, you may find that children are much more open to discuss what happened, rather than become defensive and secretive. Parenting is all about training them up with strong characters. I don’t actually want to catch any child in a lie. I want them to have an opportunity to be honest with me. That starts with me being forthcoming on what I know already. Then we can move forward with purpose together. 

Did you know I have a Facebook group for moms? You can join us here.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission from any purchases using the link at NO cost to you. All opinions are always completely my own. 

Want to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing? Click here and I'll shoot you an email whenever a new blog post lands. 

Pandemics Stink, But We Should Keep These Things

Pandemics Stink, But We Should Keep These Things

As we begin November, my mind races to the end of the year. How can it be approaching so quickly? I know that 2020 has been a challenge, to put it mildly. I know many are wishing it would just end already and we could get a fresh start. I totally empathize with that. 

I feel like there are some parts of 2020 that I would like to hold onto a little bit longer. These are my silver linings, if you will.

Keep Back!

I want to keep the physical distancing in lines. I really don’t need people all up in my business, bumping into me with their grocery cart. Imagine those theme park lines without anyone pushing and shoving to be as close as possible. There is something nice about having some boundaries that protect my personal bubble. It almost feels like a reset to polite behavior, allowing the strangers around you some space. I am seeing parents work to train their children to stay to the side in grocery store aisles and keep close to them in lines without wandering off. Isn't this just good manners? Perhaps we needed a reminder of that. It works for me.

Now, do I want this to extend into all areas of life? Of course not! I want to be able to hug my people, but strangers, not so much. 

Reservation Systems

I love how places like zoos, nature parks, farms and even theme parks have gone to using reservation systems to better distribute their crowds. I hope this continues going forward. If I am going to the zoo, for example, I would love to know that I am not going to be joined by everyone else and their brother. I love how making a reservation means that not everyone will be clamoring to get in at once and it also assures that I can get in when I arrive, rather than be turned away due to capacity. I understand having limits on attendance to places like this and I appreciate how much more valuable the experience can be when visitors are not all crammed together like sardines. You already know I like my personal space bubble, so this works for me. 

By planning ahead, we can get an enhanced experience. Sure, you can’t just decide on a whim to go somewhere that requires a reservation, but you can plan for it. It requires a shift in thinking to do some research ahead of time, but the payoff is awesome. Remember thinking you had a great idea to go someplace only to arrive and find the line a mile long of other people who had the same thought as you? I’ll take a reservation over disappointing those kids or enduring ridiculous lines with cranky kids any day


The reminder that we can connect with our loved ones in different ways is important for everyone. I am thinking of how many more phone calls, Facetime and Zoom calls we have done with family and friends to keep connected when we were encouraged to stay home. I actually know more about what is going on with my family that is scattered around the country now than I ever did before. 

Regular Zoom calls with my family have been life giving these last several months. We get together on Zoom to chat, give updates, hear from the cousins and just reconnect. There are weeks where someone has another commitment and cannot attend, but the rest of us continue on. There are also weeks where someone attends from a different location. This is always exciting for those of us who are not getting out much. 

Separation is hard, but there are ways we can stay connected. Thankfully, we already had these tools available to us. We just forgot to use them. Now, I imagine that as time goes on, we may decrease the frequency of those calls. For now though, they are a perfect reminder that we are not living in isolation. We can commiserate together and laugh together, even on video.

Family Time

Concentrated time with my family is another thing that I want to savor. As my girls get older, I know that our days together under one roof are numbered. I am loving being able to spend time with them around the table, doing movie nights together and working on family projects. In a pre-pandemic world, my oldest would have been gone most of the day at college, meeting new friends and having a social life of her own. The pandemic put a damper on those plans, which truly stinks for her, but this mama is enjoying the silver lining of a few more days with her to myself. 

We have instituted regular movie nights around here. We rotate who chooses our movie for the night. This is something we enjoy most every night, save the nights we are watching a soccer match. It has been an adventure to walk through various movie genres to see what is interesting to the girls. We learned the hard way to always check IMDB for the parent’s guide to see what we are getting ourselves into. We have watched some classics, some new movies and some that probably should have stayed unwatched. Through it all, we are having fun bonding over these movies, the good, the bad and the hilariously ugly. 

Hubby Home

Having a pilot for a husband means that we are used to extended periods of time with him gone for work. That generally means unreachable for a good amount of the day because he doesn’t take phone calls when he’s flying (thank goodness!) or he is getting much needed rest and interruptions are not conducive to his mental alertness. During this pandemic, air travel decreased so dramatically that he found himself at home for weeks that turned into months. Thankfully, he was still getting a paycheck during that time. 

For me, this meant that he was home during our move halfway across the country. He was here when the movers arrived with our belongings. He was here when the internet needed to be self-installed. He was here when we were setting up all of the accounts for new services. He was here to get driving and auto licenses. He was here through it all. Having done many of those things solo before, I am so grateful for this time. Now, I know he is going stir crazy, as any pilot who loves what they do would be feeling. 

I am selfishly enjoying the time he is here because I know it won’t last. We will look back and remember fondly the days that he followed me around the house asking what I was doing. I will miss the delivery of my tea when it has finished brewing and go back to drinking warmish tea because I am forgetful. These rhythms of ours as we go about our days will be fond memories for sure. 

There are plenty of things about this pandemic that I would like to give right back and get a full refund, thank you very much, but these things are the parts that I think could hang around for a bit longer. 

Would you add anything to my list of things that we should keep?

If the stress of current events is getting to you, hop on over to this blog post about mindfulness to get some easy strategies you could do right now to help you cope. 

Want to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing? Click here and I'll shoot you an email whenever a new blog post lands. 

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission from any purchases using the link at NO cost to you. All opinions are always completely my own. 

Want to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing? Click here and I'll shoot you an email whenever a new blog post lands. 

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